Welcome back to Monday Morning Church. Today’s guest is Mike McKay, who is coming to us from Central Wesleyan Church in Holland, Michigan. Great to have you today, Mike.
Yeah, thank you. Great to be here Courtney.
Mike, you are the executive pastor of ministries at Central, but you actually started on staff as the facilities director about 20 years ago. Would you share about your transition into a church staff role and then into your current role as an executive pastor?
Sure. 21 years ago, we moved to Holland. My wife took a job at Hope College, which is a small college here in Holland. And I was in between jobs. I had finished a career 16 years with Weyerhaeuser Company, and I loved that job, but we felt like for our family, we should move to this town and for her job. And the church was looking for a facilities director, having recently just sort of transitioned into a more professional environment role, and they were adding square footage, we were about to build a new sanctuary, so they were looking for somebody to help with that. So I thought that would be a two or three year project, and I would go back to the marketplace and that just never happened.
Famous last words.
Yes, exactly. Over time I transitioned into ministry roles, as people left positions, there was a constant need for just somebody to sort of step in, and I just felt increasingly like I could contribute. And so that took place over the next 10 years. And then I’ve been in this role for 10 years. I’ve been the executive pastor of ministries. And then I know we’re going to talk a little bit more about how we’re structured. So whenever you’re ready, we can do that.
Sure. Well, I am curious, just some of more of your background between the time you were the facilities director and then when you became the executive pastor, what were some of those roles that you filled at the church?
Oh, sure. The first role was what we called then, ‘the adult ministries pastor,’ kind of a discipleship, spiritual formation catch-all. So somebody had left the role. And so there was about four or five staff people that were either overseeing small groups, or men’s ministry, or care ministries. And so I just provided some leadership and direction to that team for a while, specifically I was responsible for small group ministries for a couple of years in there. So those were a couple of the stepping stones along the way. And that was the last thing that I did before I stepped into the executive role.
Now, was the executive pastor role an existing role or was it created when you came into it?
Yeah, good question. There had been somebody in the role for a few years, but our senior pastor at the time decided, during the time of transition, to not refill it. And so therefore the position had been open for about two years, but not an active search was going on. It had sort of been left open. So we had some precedence with the role, but it hadn’t been filled for a while. So I would say that it was a brand new position when I came into it.
How was that then? Because executive pastor can mean a whole lot of different things. Has that positioned morphed quite a bit in the last 10 years that you’ve been in it?
I would say yes. I’m on my second senior pastor in that time period. I’ve been with Craig now for three years, but I was with another pastor before that, and their personalities are quite different. And so my role is, I think different in both of course. In one case, my supervision of the previous, the first seven years or so, my supervision of the staff was probably just a different level than it is. Craig is much more involved with the staff, which I think is a good thing. And so he’s very involved, for example, in worship planning. I was more involved in that in the previous pastor’s time. So things like that, along the way have changed. But we’ve been able to adapt more as we go.
So today, what are your main areas of responsibility and how is Central structured?
Okay, sure. Well, I’m the executive pastor of ministry, so I kind of handle what I call the soft side of the business. And we have a pastor, Lynn Bruce, who’s been here for 25 years, who’s the executive pastor of operations. So he handles the finances, facilities, and the operation business office things. My role then overseeing ministries, would encompass all of the ministry areas of the church, from missions to students, to our children’s ministry, to our spiritual formation and discipleship ministries that includes care ministries here. Worship ministries is kind of a dotted line to me, because again, our new senior pastor Craig, is really involved in that and has a lot of expertise. So he offers a lot more to them in lots of ways. But on the org. chart, I still oversee that group as well. Communications is part of ministries, so we have a communications and creative department. So that’s how I spend my time working with those ministry leaders and working at collaboration and goals and things like that.
That’s quite a few different areas to be a part of. And you’ve got a pretty large staff there at Central, actually. What are some of the administrative challenges that you face?
Well, interestingly, with the complexity of our ministries, and I should add, were just recently adding our first campus that’s 30 miles away from us. We’re trying to provide some central services for them as well. So one of the big challenges of course in any multi-person staff is to get people talking to each other so that everybody knows what the priorities are, knows what’s happening. We just adopted Basecamp as a communication tool to use to keep track of projects, because there’s so much collaboration there. We’ve adopted Arena as our church business and our church management software and finance software. So we’re increasingly trying to capture data through through Arena and then decipher what that means to us. Those are a couple of the bigger challenges. I would say, the one that’s most in front of me right now is integrating another campus and trying to provide creative services to them, business services, and we even support them with some of their facilities and things as they start off. So that challenge alone is heavy for us at the moment.
Is this new campus, did you have staff that left to go to this campus or is it mostly new hires?
Actually, we did have two staff people that we had hired with the intent of sending them, and so it worked out pretty well from that standpoint. They were two guys that wanted to campus-plan together. We had them on staff for about a year each and they were able to adopt our DNA along the way. So they did leave our staff, we did replace them on staff here.
Now, I’ll have to ask, since there’s other executive pastors listening and some are in a decision time period about possibly adding a second campus. When you made that decision, was it… why have the second campus? Was it a matter of space at your current facility, or you had a large demographic represented from an area farther away? What were the reasons?
Yeah, I would say in talking other executive pastors, we’re a little atypical in that we weren’t bursting at the seams in our central campus, but we have long felt that we had a broader influence, that God was calling our church with its resources with its people, with its staff even, as part of the resources that needed to be used in a bigger way in the advancement of His Kingdom. And so we really felt that that was part of our motivation and we wanted to replicate our DNA in other places. We feel like the combination of worship and our call to be missionaries and those kinds of things would be important for us to help spread in communities around us. So we did have two guys that were passionate about an area of West Michigan. And we know that’s a great predictor of success. And so we’ve launched in a little bit of a different way from what I’ve heard other places do, where there’s, for example, geographic problems with getting to a central campus or things like that. We’re definitely drawing from a regional area, but we sent them to an area in Grand Rapids, which is about 30 miles from us, and they took about 55 people from our church that were either living that direction or inclined to support them ministry-wise. So we did feel that. But we feel like the initial results are pretty strongly reinforcing that that was a good move for us. Lots of people coming, about 200 in attendance now, and we’re hoping to see more as days unfold.
And how many do you run at your main campus?
This fall we’ve been averaging right around 2700 to 2800 on a Sunday. That’s been an average. It’s been such a warm weather fall. It’s been a little softer start than we were hoping for. But that’s about average for us.
A lot of people talk about the transition going over a thousand and then going over 3000 and systems changing and communications changing. Have you been starting to feel some of that at your church approaching the 3000 mark?
We’re a church that over the years has hovered around 3000, so we don’t see that as something that’s a new hurdle for us. We’ve been around 3000, we launched a few, but I think about 10 years ago, another church spawned out of Central and they’re running about 1200 in the same town now. So we’re very familiar. We don’t feel like there’s anything like there’s a hurdle that we have to get over that’s going to change the way we do church. We feel like we’re staffed and we have the right systems in place right now to handle more as we expand both at our central location. And as we think about other locations that we can serve. So no, we’re not really thinking in terms of new hurdles to get over.
That’s great. What networks and resources have helped you as an executive pastor?
Oh, great. Whenever I hear executive pastors are getting together for some reason I’ve always got my ears perked up and I’m interested. I network with a couple groups. One is in our town, we have several large churches and we meet monthly. We just have a breakfast and we bring whatever issues we’re dealing with. There’s 6 of us that meet. We do something in our denomination, Wesleyan denomination has done a couple of things over the last year. And I attended a round table with some executive pastors last fall. A couple times we met for three days in September and three days in November. And those were just extremely helpful. I find, rather than going to conferences per se, just sitting around the table with other people in the same roles has been the most helpful to me.
When you sit around these round tables, what’s often discussed – is it new ideas or struggles, or is it a really big mix of all that?
Yeah, definitely. We’ve seen everything from struggles with executive pastors struggling with senior pastors. Or we’ve had people talk about, how do you know if your spiritual formation really is producing any fruit? And that’s a common theme, I think with a lot of us in executive roles is, what’s the fruitfulness of our ministry? How are we measuring it? Struggles with staff – we’re trying to hire and motivate and sometimes discuss: how do you help staff transition. Those are the things we talk about the most, I think.
I can see how meeting around with other people in the same position as you, no book or conference or anything could really replace something like that.
Sure. I think anytime you’re in a circle, obviously, there’s a great group learning, as long as it just doesn’t become just a complaint session. I think it’s really valuable for executive pastors to just have a place that they can go and share. And sometimes the issue is with certain people on staff. So it’s difficult to find those kind of safe circles to talk about it, and find sort of a family of other executive pastors to help.
Yeah, absolutely. That’s a gift when you can find that. So to close out, what encouragement would you give to other executive pastors?
I think first of all, Bill Hybels, has a quote about the church and he says, the church is organic, it is an organism, but there’s a corporate side to the bride of Christ. And we’re the stewards of that piece of it, where we have to have HR policies, and we have to manage things in a way. But I would say inevitably in these roles, there’s a spiritual dimension that I have sometimes underestimated at my peril. The idea that we are pastors and called to be leaders and shepherds as well. So being able to take care of ourselves spiritually, finding our own self-leadership in scripture and in prayer, in a community that can support us. I think I’d encourage executive pastors to not be on an island, but to really create for themselves a place that they can go that’s either a community that’s safe, in regular times in their own spiritual growth. That they can go from a place of strength and that be depleted, because this can be a very draining role.
Yeah, absolutely. Mike, thanks so much for being on the podcast today.
My pleasure Courtney, good to talk to you.